Singapore International Photography Festival's biggest edition to date opens Sept 6

Essayist Yoko Aoki, the wife of prolific Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, died of ovarian cancer in 1990.
Essayist Yoko Aoki, the wife of prolific Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, died of ovarian cancer in 1990.PHOTO: COURTESY OF YOSHIKO ISSHIKI OFFICE, TOKYO

SINGAPORE - A deeply personal series of photographs that prolific Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki took of his late wife are at the heart of the sixth edition of the Singapore International Photography Festival.

Love And Death: Diary Of Nobuyoshi Araki, with more than 130 photos, is the largest exhibition of Araki's work here.

It chronicles his relationship with his wife, essayist Yoko Aoki, who died of ovarian cancer in 1990.

The photographs come from eight series done between 1963 and this year. They are done in a confessional diaristic style, which Araki describes as "shishashin" or "I-photography".

He is known for his controversial photography, which blends eroticism and bondage. The festival exhibition has an Advisory 16 (some nudity) rating, although the nude photos in this case are of his wife during their honeymoon in 1971.

Araki, 78, will not be accompanying the exhibition to Singapore for health reasons. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and a head tumour led to partial blindness. His Uganbochi series alludes to his failing right eye through the imagery of a cracked lens.

The festival will run from Sept 6 to Dec 9. This is its biggest edition so far, with 11 exhibitions as well as 50 public and education programmes. This year's theme is Like You, Me, Everybody Else.

Also featured at the festival are 19 local artists, the most in an edition to date.

Photographer Nguan, known for his dreamy, pastel-hued visions of Singapore, will be the first Singaporean with a solo exhibition at the festival.

Nguan, an enigmatic figure who goes only by one name, has 149,000 followers on Instagram.

He has published three books, Shibuya (2010), How Loneliness Goes (2013) and Singapore (2017), which was named in The New York Times Magazine as one of the best photo books of the year.

The 44-year-old says of his work: "A young country depends on its artists and dreamers to identify its symbols and construct its myths. I want my photographs to imbue our landscape with an emotional grandeur that may previously have been imperceptible.

"The work portrays daily Singaporean life as being simultaneously mundane and magical, while acknowledging some of the tensions and contradictions in our society."

Other exhibitions in the festival include Briton Mark Neville's social documentary projects in Child's Play And Other Stories, Canadian still life photographer Laura Letinsky's Still, and Chinese photographer Jiang Jian's Archives On Orphans, which documents the journeys of 400 orphans from 2004 to 2014.

The festival will also stage an inaugural photobook showcase of 82 books shortlisted by an international panel at the National Design Centre. After its debut here, the showcase will travel to other cities in Asia.